This rapidly paced book provides a fascinating insight into how our understanding of Mars has developed.
When a Renaissance astronomer studied the motions of Mars in the sky, he discovered the laws of planetary motion. With the advent of the telescope, the planet could be studied as a world in its own right, measuring the length of its day and mapping its surface in ever more detail. Late in the 19th century, Percival Lowell in the USA claimed Mars was criss-crossed by canals created by a race of intelligent beings to transport water from the polar ice caps to the equatorial areas. Although Lowell's vision of Mars was rejected by astronomers, it inspired storytellers to write classic works of science fiction. By the mid-20th century, the consensus view was that large tracts of the planet hosted a hardy form of vegetation. Given the limitation of telescopes, the only way to be sure was to send a probe.
The engaging text, supported by numerous technical illustrations, photographs and graphics, relates the challenges and technical triumph of sending space vehicles to Mars, initially on flyby missions, then to orbit the planet, and more recently to land on it.
Mars is a world of contrasts. Much of the southern hemisphere is cratered highlands and much of the northern hemisphere is a low-lying plain that might once have held an ocean. There are volcanoes and canyons much larger than those on Earth, and broad channels cut by vast floods - all formed early in the planet's history. Mars has suffered extreme climate change. Did life develop there when the planet was warm and wet? Did it adapt to the current arid and cold conditions? We looked for microbes in the soil with indeterminate results. Soon, we hope to drill to seek evidence of microbes living beneath the surface. The implications of finding life on Mars are profound, because if life can develop independently in several places in the solar system then it is probably ubiquitous across the universe. The Mars Owners' Workshop Manual chronicles this story of discovery and looks forward to the time when we will join our robots in exploring the intriguing Red Planet.